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Thursday, August 12, at Fat Cat's, 4216 Washington Avenue, 713-869-5263.Interpol, on the Curiosa Tour with the Cure and others

When Turn on the Bright Lights came out in 2002, an unsuspecting music public was surprised by a New York act that dressed in suits and turned out to be not just another Gang of Four tribute band. Interpol's Antics retains the gloomy-energetic feel of Bright Lights, and though the arrangements aren't necessarily more developed, the songwriting is, at least from a musical standpoint. Still present are the sweeping passages where all of the music drops out, save for a repetitive guitar riff that leads into the next movement of the song. But even so, the tone feels a lot more mature.

As do Paul Banks's vocals, which have graduated from Ian Curtis Elementary to Richard Butler Junior High, but even though how he sings has developed tenfold, what he sings is still an unfortunate weak point. Most of Banks's lyrics are passable, but others are terrible.

Ultimately, it's not the strength of his words that matters -- it's where and how he uses them. Banks's forte is the ability to take incredibly simple lines and plant them into the songs just so, as he does on "Public Pervert," probably the best song on the album in the way its parts play back and forth with one another.

That same music public which loved Bright Lights is going to kick and scream because they're not hearing the same songs over again, but realistically, the same musical elements are completely intact. As much as some might finger Interpol for retracing the steps of their peers, at least they didn't try to retrace their own. -- Lance Walker

Sunday, August 15, at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion, 2025 Lake Robbins Drive, The Woodlands, 713-639-3700.Stiff Little Fingers and Throw Rag

Belfast's Stiff Little Fingers are a legendary band, a punk classic (despite the oxymoron) whose mixture of politics and smart songwriting has brought much critical acclaim. But fast-forward 25 years and a couple of reunion tours and records later: Like the Buzzcocks, Stiff Little Fingers are playing new material (with Jam bass player Bruce Foxton) that doesn't come close to their original stuff. Still, hearing songs like "Suspect Device" and "Alternative Ulster" played live could be fun. And one of the opening bands really makes going to the show worthwhile. Throw Rag is from Salton Sea, the toxic-waste-infested dead sea of Southern California, and it shows. The band's nautical-themed, raucous punk (with a washboard player!) is catchy as all get-out, and they put on a super-high-energy show. -- Wez Lundry

With the God Awfuls, Saturday, August 14, at the Engine Room, 1515 Pease, 713-654-7846.

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